by Alice Levitt
3699 Woodstock Rd., White River Junction, 295-7563
Despite my most ardent efforts, there are still some places in Vermont where I haven't yet tried the barbecue. Check Route 4 Country Store, Deli & Bar-B-Que off the list.
Distance is my only excuse. The quirky spot is exactly my kind of place. Where else can I buy smoked pig ears (intended for dogs); mini bottles of both Boyden Valley Vermont Ice and ChocoVine; and ribs. The packed country store, also home to Vermont Chocolatiers, is eclecticism done right.
I only wish I could have tried even more of the barbecue offerings, but I went slightly over my $35 limit as it was, with the inclusion of drinks, sides and the unexpected cost of including sauce and veggies on the sandwiches. A warning: If, like me, you usually agree to whatever toppings your sandwich artist suggests, be aware at Route 4 that it will raise your bill.
But I can't fault the quality of the sammies themselves. Particularly the pulled pork.
The meat was prepared just the way I like it, sturdy enough to tear into, yet so tender that it melted in fatty victory once it was safely in my mouth.
But the meat wasn't greasy. The chunks, crusty with bits of dry rub, almost tasted healthy, except for blobs of excess fat in a few bites. The tangy house barbecue sauce wasn't really necessary to flavor the pork, but it was a nice addition to cut through the starch of the robust roll from Colatina Bakery in Bradford.
The beefy brisket was similarly delicious, but I wish the fat cap had been trimmed before the meat was sliced. Not that I wouldn't order the sandwich again. I certainly would, but I'd do some slicing of my own before biting in. I also await a repeat performance from the sweet-and-sour maple baked beans.
I'll probably skip the coleslaw. I always prefer vinegared versions to creamy ones, but this sweet, ultra-viscous iteration of the latter tasted like bits of cabbage chopped up into a tub of frosting.
But the biggest disappointment was the St. Louis style ribs. While the pork and brisket tasted of just a whisper of smoke, the ribs seemed to be nothing but. I burped ash flavor for the rest of the day.
This would have been forgivable had the meat been thoroughly smoked, but the flesh remained slightly hard and difficult to strip from the bone. I'm judgemental of "fall-off-the-bone" ribs, but this was too far in the opposite direction.
Next time I'm on Route 4, I'll stick to the barbecue sandwiches and a creemee.
With 60 flavors of soft serve, as well as hard scoops from Gifford's Ice Cream, there are plenty of options. I was tempted to try one of the wackier creemee flavors, such as teaberry, licorice or eggnog.
But I couldn't resist the S'mores Sundae. Utilizing marshmallow-flavored creemee mix (which did actually taste like marshmallow), the ice cream geniuses at the store created something I liked even more than a real s'more.
The lowest stratum was composed of chunks of Graham crackers. Creemee filled most of the large tub, and was covered in truly dark and truly hot fudge; marshmallow fluff; and homemade whipped cream. To people who say that "nothing tastes as good as thin feels," try this sundae, then get back to me.
Alice Eats is a weekly blog feature devoted to reviewing restaurants where diners can get a meal for two for less than $35. Got a restaurant you'd love to see featured? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.